Consuming a high-calorie, high-fat diet may lead to pancreatic cancer, according to a new study in mice.
Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, purposely made mice obese by feeding them diets high in calories and fat. They found that those mice went on to develop a number of health issues, including pancreatic tissue inflammation, higher insulin levels, metabolic abnormalities and lesions called pancreas intraepithelial neoplasias. These lesions are known to be a precursor to pancreatic cancer.
"The development of these lesions in mice is very similar to what happens in humans," study researcher Dr. Guido Eibl, a professor in the surgery department at the university and member of the Jonsson Cancer Center, said in a statement. "These lesions take a long time to develop into cancer, so there is enough time for cancer-preventive strategies, such as changing to a lower-fat, lower-calorie diet, to have a positive effect."
The new research is published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Researchers separated mice into two groups: One was fed a normal diet, and the other was fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet, for 14 months. The normal-diet group gained approximately 7.2 grams over the study period, while the high-fat, high-calorie-diet group gained approximately 15.9 grams.
"Our results demonstrate that a diet high in fats and calories leads to obesity and metabolic disturbances similar to humans and accelerates early pancreatic neoplasia in the conditional KrasG12D mouse model," the researchers wrote in the study. "This model and findings will provide the basis for more robust studies attempting to unravel the mechanisms underlying the cancer-promoting properties of obesity as well as to evaluate dietary- and chemo-preventive strategies targeting obesity-associated pancreatic cancer development."
Pancreatic cancer is notoriously deadly, with the five-year survival rate being just 6 percent, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. LiveScience points out that's often because the cancer is not caught until it's progressed to a later stage and spread to other parts of the body.